JOHANNESBURG – The permanent parliamentary committee on public finances (Scopa) will not subpoena President Cyril Ramaphosa – at least for the moment.
It comes after Scopa chose not to be subpoenaed by Ramaphosa to comment on the alleged use of public funds ahead of the 2017 ANC election conference.
Scopa chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa, after a committee meeting that lasted more than two hours, told its members that they would instead write to Ramaphosa about the allegations before asking him to appear before Scopa.
The meeting will also write to the State Security Agency, now under Ramaphosa’s office, and the Office of the Comptroller General, which is responsible for auditing SSA funds, to request information on the matter.
It comes after two dramatic weeks in which it emerged that ANC MP and Scopa Whip Mervyn Dirks had written to the committee late last year subpoenaing Ramaphosa to answer questions about the use of public funds by the SSA during the election campaign.
In his letter, he also suggested that Ramaphosa might have committed perjury by not disclosing the information he provided to the ANC NEC on the use of the funds.
Ramaphosa was targeted after a recording emerged from the NEC in which he spoke about his knowledge of how the funds were spent.
“I think we need to take this matter to the president and get his response,” Hlengwa said.
He had suggested that the committee take a “two-pronged approach” in which he would write to Ramaphosa and ask him to provide a statement or affidavit to the committee to speak about his knowledge of the use of SSA funds.
“Upon receipt of this information, the committee will make a decision on the process of hearings on this matter. It must therefore give us information.
“Secondly, the President is not the only actor involved now, because there is no better wording or authority on this issue. I think the State Security Agency needs to make a statement or a statement or an affidavit to the committee about it,” Hlengwa said.
He said the commission should provide further advice to the parliamentary standing joint intelligence committee on the matter, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chaired the state captures commission.
Dirks had told the committee during his presentation that he had also written to Mkhwebane and Zondo complaining about Ramaphosa.
MPs previously decided not to subpoena Ramaphosa, preferring to either respond in writing or be asked to appear at Scopa if he does not respond.
A parliamentary legal opinion, read by lawyer Fatima Ebrahim, told the committee it had the right to subpoena Ramaphosa to answer Scopa, but warned against subpoenaing before he shows up uncooperative.
ANC MPs Bheki Hadebe, Sakhumzi Somyo and Nokuzola Tolashe opposed Ramaphosa’s summons.
DA MP Alf Lees proposed a resolution that would require Ramaphosa to respond to the committee within seven days, failing which Scopa would have to formally request him to appear before it. His resolution was seconded by the committee.
Ramaphosa now has seven to ten days to respond to Scopa’s questions on the matter, failing which he may be asked to appear formally before him to respond.